Bert Lahr (born Irving Lahrheim; August 13, 1895 – December 4, 1967) was an American actor and comedian. Lahr is remembered today for his roles as the Cowardly Lion and Kansas farmworker Zeke in The Wizard of Oz, but was also well-known for work in burlesque, vaudeville, and on Broadway.
Lahr was born in New York City, of German-Jewish heritage. Lahr grew up in the Yorkville section of Manhattan. Dropping out of school at the age of 15 to join a juvenile vaudeville act, Lahr worked his way up to top billing on the Columbia Burlesque Circuit. In 1927 he debuted on Broadway in Delmar's Revels. Lahr played to packed houses, performing classic routines such as "The Song of the Woodman" (which he later reprised in the film Merry-Go-Round of 1938). Lahr had his first major success in a stage musical playing the prize fighter hero of Hold Everything! (1928–29). Several other musicals followed, notably Flying High (1930), Florenz Ziegfeld's Hot-Cha! (1932) and The Show is On (1936) in which he co-starred with Beatrice Lillie. In 1939, he co-starred with Ethel Merman in DuBarry Was a Lady.
His later life was troubled. His first wife, Mercedes, developed a severe mental health problem that left her hospitalized. This complicated his relationship with his second wife, Mildred, as he had legal problems getting a divorce in New York State at the time. Mildred became tired of waiting and became involved with another man, marrying him. Bert was heartbroken but eventually won Mildred back. Through all of this time he had to continue to work and travel.